An opening night win and a win over the reigning Eastern Conference champions; the Miami Heat!
Is there a better way to start Christmas?
THE OPENING QUARTER
From the start this game was a stand up fight as both teams came to compete. The tone for the night was set by the active hands from both teams on defence. Orlando looked to play by limiting Miami to one chance, then transition with pace, drive & kick.
The starting unit of Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Dwayne Bacon, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic went toe-to-toe with Miami for the opening 7 minutes.
As the second units came in the intensity continued but scoring slowed for both teams. By the close the Magic trailed 29-27. Orlando had suffered 8 turnovers in the quarter but only 11 points had resulted.
THE SECOND QUARTER
The toe-to-toe battle continued with the second units as the score was kept tight & leads exchanged. With 6 minutes to play in the 2nd the starting unit filtered back on.
Vooch had been slow to start scoring but finally got going with about 3 minutes of the quarter left. Orlando had successfully cut out the turnovers, whilst forcing 8 from Miami. This had allowed the Magic to go into the break with a 53-57 lead.
Chuma Okeke & Cole Anthony both had impact in their full NBA debuts as part of a bench unit that produced 27 points in the half.
INTO THE 3RD
Orlando lost Aaron Gordon very early in the period to foul trouble. In came Chuma to play a solid period of extended minutes. The Heat had a scoring run in the opening minutes to tie the score. The Magic response was a superb Evan Fournier 3 and was followed by an Evan steal play with Chuma, restoring the Magic lead again.
The tight game continued as the teams slugged it out, exchanging baskets. Unfortunately the Magic shot went cool, fouls & turnovers came back into the play. The Heat had a scoring run to take an 83-79 lead into the 4th.
IT’S THE FOURTH QUARTER!
Magic fans in attendance were standing and cheering as a great start to the quarter was made by Aaron Gordon. AG returned to the court with plays including a highlight reel Cole Anthony lob for the AG dunk.
Continuing from last season’s success Coach Clifford won his challenge after a poor foul call on Michael Carter-Williams. That call saw MCW begin to play angry and he was instrumental in upsetting several Miami efforts to get possession. However an inability to hit free throws for Orlando kept Miami and the game close. This frustration was obvious in the team as Coach Clifford called a timeout.
From that resulted the turning point in the game. Evan & Vooch both hit big 3’s with 3:30 remaining. That gave the Magic the lead and from here on in they ran the game. Markelle Fultz pushed constantly to the paint & made plays.
A still tight game saw a 4 point lead for Orlando with 1 minute to play. The lead was extended by a quality 3 point play by Evan. With 28 seconds to go a lead of 9 for Orlando was the largest enjoyed by either team on the night. As the final buzzer sounded Orlando claimed the W by 107-113.
PLAYER STATS IN AN OPENING NIGHT WIN
Evan Fournier had a great night on both ends. He came up with important steals and big shots at important times. For me any criticism on that Evan performance is completely unwarranted. A team leading 25 points, 4 assists and 3 steals is a solid game.
Nikola Vucevic struggled to get going and was shaky at the line all night. However he got his customary double-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and a block.
This was a team performance throughout as every player called onto the court played their part and fought every moment. The bench had 38 points. The team had a huge 15 steals and 23 assists to help achieve an opening night win.
Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke look at home on the big stage. If either had any nerves about the game neither showed them. Both made mistakes that are to be expected but both had impact on the game. Cole had a team leading 6 assists.
We now head to Washington for a back-to-back on the 26th and 27th against Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Wizards.